Axial Age

German philosopher Karl Jaspers coined the term Axial Age to describe the period 800-200 BCE which  was a time of intense growth leading to the modern world.  Some scholars criticize the concept of the Axial Age, though it is notable that so many important events  happened in a short period of time, as we detail below.  But then, of course, most scholars criticize the concept of astrology.  What I want to  talk about is the peak of the Axial Age, the Sixth Century BCE  in which an incredible amount of what we call modern thinking developed throughout the world, coinciding with a tripe conjunction of the three outer planets – Uranus, Neptune, Pluto – which were of course unknown at that time. In the years following this conjunction many notable events occurred. It was almost as if a rock had been thrown into earth’s timeline and the ripples followed for centuries.

This triple conjunction happens every 4000 years, so the next one will be due in 3368 CE at 13-14 Gemini. This triple conjunction is actually three conjunctions, that of Neptune-Pluto, Uranus-Neptune, and Uranus-Pluto.  Over the succeeding years, the  Uranus-Neptune and Uranus-Pluto conjunctions get further and further ahead of the Neptune-Pluto conjunction, so that, for example, in  the current time the gap is 96 and 70  years, respectively ahead of the Neptune-Pluto conjunction.  These last two  conjunctions also occur later and later from one another, but not to such an extent.  The current ones occurred about 25 years apart.  There are four Uranus-Pluto and three Uranus-Neptune conjunctions   per one Neptune-Pluto conjunction in a 500 year period. 

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Triple Conjunction of Outer Planets in Axial Age

There were many changes leading to the modern world in the Sixth Century BCE, in the Mediterranean area, India, China, America, in science, religion, history.  For an overview of this period the book Creation by Gore Vidal gives a tour through much of the known world.    I want to apologize in advance for my lack of knowledge of Chinese and Indian culture of this period, so as a  result there are only a few  events from those cultures.  I’ve given some dates but they are often controversial.

This period can be seen as the beginning of history, the beginning of the Modern Age.  While history obviously existed  before the Sixth Century BCE, the first named historian lived in this period.  As we will see below, many of the items that we take for granted  in the world, such as theater and religion, took a modern shape in this period.  Considering the rare triple conjunction that happened in that century, this is not surprising.

First lets look at religion.  Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem 586 BCE, and brought people from there to his country, resulting in what is called the  Babylonian Captivity which lasted to 538 BCE.  While the Israelites were   held captive, they  essentially created  monotheism and wrote many books of the Bible.  This was the true beginning of the Jewish religion, which spawned Christianity and Islam. The Old Testament prophet Jeremiah also lived at this time.   In India both Buddha (563-483 BCE) , who gave rise to his eponymous religion, and Mahavira (540-468 BCE), who revitalized and systematized the religion of Jainism, lived during this period. In China Confucius (551-479 BCE) gave rise to again an eponymous  religion as well as Lao Tsu (6th Century BCE), father of Taoism and the I Ching.  In Persia Zarathustra (6th Century BCE), who founded Zoroastrianism, lived.

We had the beginning of science with Pythagoras (570-495 BCE) the Greek mathematician and philosopher whose theorem many high school students have had to learn,  Anaximander (610-546 BCE) a Greek philosopher who is though to have conducted the first scientific experiments, and Heraclitus (535-475 BCE)  another Greek philosopher and metaphysician also lived during this period.

In the field of history and politics the Greek Solon (638-558 BCE) whose name is still  given to elected members of government lived.  His reforms marked  the beginning of Greek democracy. Thales (624-546 BCE) is considered the beginning of Western philosophy, Herodotus is considered the father of history (484-425 BCE) and Thucydides (460-395 BCE), another famous Greek historian all were extant in this  period. The classical age of Greek democracy started in 510-490 BCE.

Nearby, the last of the seven traditional  Roman kings – Tarquinius – was overthrown in 510 BCE and the Roman Republic was created, which would last almost 500  years until Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon.

The (first) Persian Empire was founded in this period by Cyrus the Great about the middle of the Sixth Century BCE.  This was the greatest empire the world had seen at that point in history, and it stretched from southwest Asia to the Mediterranean Sea.  It was further expanded after his death into Egypt.

In the fields of theater and poetry there were Aeschylus, father of Greek tragedy (525-456 BCE)  and  Sappho (625-570 BCE)  who is  known as one of the greatest poets who ever lived, though most of her poetry has been lost.

The history of metal coins, small pieces of metal that represent money and can be used for exchange, is somewhat shrouded.  From the best I have seen, metal coins were developed independently in China, in India, and in  Asia Minor in the Sixth Century BCE.

The so-called Roman republican calendar was supposedly introduced by the Etruscan Tarquinius Priscus (616-579 B.C.E.), according to tradition the fifth king of Rome.

In  summary, the period, the Sixth Century BCE, was the height of the Axial Age.  Many of the developments that we take for granted, in religion, science, theater, government, history, were first started in their modern form — that could be recognized as such — in this period. The Sixth Century was highlighted by the three conjunctions of the three outer planets — Uranus, Neptune, Pluto.  This century could be considered the Birth of the Modern World.

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